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Con Report: South Afrifur 2017 – By Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer

Another milestone of furry fandom has been achieved on 14-17 July 2017, when South African furs held South Afrifur, their first convention.

The size and longevity of furry fandom in South Africa have been difficult to determine, due to the large spread-out size of that country, with apparently only a pawful of fans in any one city. The ZA furs (from Zuid-Afrika, the Afrikaans name – see the history of the Zuid-Afrikaansche Republiek from 1852 to 1902) socialize primarily via the Internet. There are currently about 600+ active through all the ZA furry websites and chat groups. But it is estimated that the majority of them are only casual browsers, and only 200 to 300 should be considered true ZA furs.

As to longevity, that goes back to two previous ZA furmeets. Some claim that they were conventions, but the attendees themselves did not despite their including registrations.

On 12-16 2008, the first national ZA furry get-together was held in the Cape Town suburb of Table View. Dracius was the organizer. He booked “At Cheryl’s”, a self-catering accommodation holiday house including five small buildings; a house, cottage, cabana, condo, and den. (The exact location was At Cheryl’s, 50 & 55 Circle Road, Table View, South Africa.)

There were 16 attendees. At Cheryl’s was primarily a gathering place for daytime socializing and evening activities. Daytime events included wandering into two shopping centers and other places around Cape Town, and a trip up its Signal Hill. In the evening there were films on a projector and the game Guitar Hero.

A second get-together was planned for 2010, but it was not held until 7-15 January 2011, in Port Elizabeth. The organizers were Nanukk, Electrocat, and Cat147. The venue was Nanukk’s grandmother’s house in the suburb of Blue Water Bay. 14 attended.

The meet was very relaxed and informal. It consisted of about an equal amount of time getting to know each other around the house while sketching and gaming, and going out to see various sites in the city. Some of the main events that had been organized were going to a Karaoke bar, car-pooling to a lion park (cut short when one of the cars got a flat tire) and a visit to a museum (with a behind-the-scenes tour), snake park and aquarium.

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A Dog’s View of Love, Life, and Death, by J. R. Archer – book review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer

A Dog’s View of Love, Life, and Death, by J. R. Archer
Hove, England, White Crow Books, June 2017, trade paperback $14.99 (ix + 299 pages), Kindle $4.99.

This is an intriguing fantasy, but from an anthropomorphic point of view, it’s ultimately unsatisfying.

The locale is New York City. The chapters are short. In chapter one, Svetlana witnesses Robbie commit suicide, leaving Rosie, a small dog. In chapter two, rich, elderly Margaret Roper and her small dog Rags are introduced. In chapter three, young Black police officer Teddy Dwight investigates Robbie’s suicide and takes charge of Rosie. In chapter four, Margaret has a fatal heart attack. Her son Will, who has anger issues, is mostly resentful at the inconvenience her funeral will cause him. He breaks his promise to look out after Rags, who is sent to a dog shelter.

Most of the first nine chapters are entirely about the human cast. The dogs are little more than props. Other important characters are young Milo McGarry, the conscientious Black receptionist at the East 110th Street dog shelter (which is expected to go out of business soon), where Rosie and Rags are taken; two other dogs there: Lennon, a hulking but kindly Great Dane, and Darcy, a rescued Greyhound ex-racing dog; Sebastian, Svetlana’s pet Borzoi-German Shepherd mix; and Elton, Milo’s long-haired Chihuahua.

The dogs finally talk in chapter Ten. Chapters Thirteen, Fifteen, and some others are also devoted to the dogs, but for an anthropomorphic novel, it’s too little, too late.

The dogs don’t talk verbally but mind-to-mind.

“‘Allow me to introduce myself, Lennon, my name is Rags.’

The Great Dane sat up, looking surprised. ‘How’d ya know my name?’

‘It came to me as soon as we connected.’

‘Seriously? … I’ve never been able to do that. Have you just arrived, little fella?’

‘I got in early this morning.’

‘Rags, if you want a heads up, I’ve been here for a while now, and for me it’s home. I don’t know how long you’re gonna be here but, while you are, let’s be friends.’” (p. 47)

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ArCANIS: A Modern Animal Tarot, by David DePasquale – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer

ArCANIS: A Modern Animal Tarot, by David DePasquale. Illustrated.
Los Angeles, The author, July 2017, hardcover $30.00 (unpaged [168 pages).

I went to the Center Stage Gallery in Burbank, CA during August to see the “ArCANIS: A Modern Animal Tarot” art exhibit by David DePasquale; a full 78-card Tarot deck in color, divided into 22 Major Arcana cards and 56 Minor Arcana cards split into 14 cards each of the four Tarot suits (swords, wands, pentacles, and cups), with each card featuring an anthropomorphized animal. Besides the original art (for sale), there were the printed cards, a rotating enlargement slide show so the attractive stylized art could be easily seen in detail, and brief notes on the history of Tarot and the meanings of the cards.

In addition to the exhibit, visitors could buy in advance (the publication date is in September) the printed 3.5” x 5.5” deck of 78 cards in a customized tuck box, and a de luxe hardcover book showing the 78 cards individually on right-hand pages with a one-page explanation of each on the left-hand page:

THE NINE OF WANDS

Upright: Determination, Hope, Persistence

The Nine of Wands can represent searching inside yourself for the inner strength to overcome a final hurdle. You have worked through many obstacles to get to where you are now, so do not give up when you are so close!

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Avaritia: A Fable, by M.D. Westbrook- Book Review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer

Avaritia: A Fable, by M.D. Westbrook
Wichita, KS, M.W. Publishers, April 2016, trade paperback $9.99 (200 pages), Kindle $1.00.

Usually the dedication of a book is not pertinent, but this one really sets the mood:

“This book is dedicated to rising taxes, broken promises, forgotten children, crime, starvation, war, death, and despair.

Thanks for the inspiration, guys. Couldn’t have done it without you.”

Avaritia has a very plain cover (by the author, credited as Mark D. Westbrook), but it turns out that there is a reason for this. The novel is grim and preachy, but fascinating in an Old Testament way. The only anthropomorphic novel that I can think of that’s remotely similar to this is the black comedy Play Little Victims by Kenneth Cook (1978). See my 2014 review of it on Flayrah: https://www.flayrah.com/5725/review-play-little-victims-kenneth-cook

But there is nothing funny about Avaritia. I read Play Little Victims almost forty years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. I don’t expect to ever forget Avaritia, either.

Avaritia begins in a house with a human father, a mother, and two brothers. The younger brother has three pet rats. The older brother has a bowl of mice, but Older Brother Human only keeps them to feed to his pet snake.

The characters in Avaritia are its mice and rats. The story begins with Older Brother Human lifting Radish, one of the mice, out of the bowl to feed to his boa constrictor while her mate, Cookie, pounds on the glass and squeaks, “Take me! Take me and leave her!”

“Cookie cried uncontrollably, watching as the snake slithered behind his mate.

In a blink, the snake struck. Radish released a final squeak as the constrictor wrapped around her lower abdomen.

‘Noooo!’ Cookie wailed.

Radish opened her mouth, gasping, and beat her tiny paws against the orange and yellow scales, but to no avail. Radish’s once soft pink eyes bulged, now a darker hue of red.

Older Brother Human laughed out loud. ‘Good boy, Petey. Eat ‘er up.’” (p. 2)

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Garbage Night, by Jen Lee. – Book Review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer

Garbage Night, by Jen Lee. Illustrated.
London, NYC, Nobrow Ltd., June 2017, hardcover $18.95 (98 pages).

Garbage Night is #2 in Lee’s Vacancy series; what Amazon calls “dystopian graphic novels”. Vacancy, #1 in the series, was published in June 2015. But Garbage Night the book includes the complete Vacancy as a bonus. Garbage Night itself is 70 pages, followed immediately by “Now read Jen Lee’s original comic, Vacancy” for 26 more pages. You should skip directly to Vacancy, read it first, then return to the beginning of Garbage Night. Be warned that it still ends with a “to be continued”.

What is going on is unexplained. The blurb for the first story says, “Vacancy explores the ways that animals think; how they internalize their changing environment and express their thoughts, fears, or excitement.” The blurb for Garbage Night says, “Juvenile animals strive to survive across a post-apocalyptic wasteland in this striking parable about the nature of freedom and friendship.” What it is is about anthropomorphic animals (they wear clothes and are bipedal) living in a deserted, humanless world.

Simon is a pet watchdog left behind when his humans disappeared. But it is obvious that what’s happened is more complex than that. The entire town shows years of having been deserted. Signs are peeling, windows are broken, cloth is rotting, roofs are falling in. Simon roams through his owners’ empty house, wishing that they’d return to fil his food bowl, but not really believing it after so long. What remains of the town has been scavenged out of food by the abandoned pets and nearby wildlife like Monica the opossum. When two forest animals pass through town – Cliff, a raccoon, and Reynard, a deer with a broken antler – Simon asks to go with them. “I need someone to show me the ropes of the wild.”

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The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World, by Shannon and Dean Hale – review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Squirrel Meets World, by Shannon Hale & Dean Hale. Illustrated by Bruno Mangyoku.
NYC, Marvel Press, February 2017, hardcover $13.99 (324 [+ 1] pages), Kindle $9.99.

The Marvel Comics Group is having hardcover novelizations written of most of its high-profile super-heroes such as Iron Man, for the 9-to-12 age group. Marvel does not go in for animal heroes, so the Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and her 300 squirrels are about the only ones who would qualify for interest to furry fans. New York Times bestselling author Shannon Hale specializes in romantic novels for adolescent girls and young women, many in collaboration with her husband, Dean Hale.

This novel recounts the beginning of Squirrel Girl’s career, written in a breezy teenager’s diary style. The comic book stories began in 1991 with her as a 21-year-old college student, but here 14-year-old Doreen Green has just moved with her parents from Southern California to Shady Oaks, New Jersey. “Who runs the world? Squirrels!” Doreen may be prejudiced because she was born with a bushy squirrel’s tail. Otherwise she looks like any young teenage girl, except that she’s super-strong and has retractable claws and “her two front teeth were a little longer than their neighbors. She had to gnaw on things to keep them from getting even longer. Things like logs.” (p. 2) Maple logs are her favorite.

No reason is given for her having a squirrel’s tail, but Hey! this is the Marvel Universe. Doreen used to see She-Hulk while she lived in Los Angeles, and now she’s looking forward to seeing Thor and the other Avengers who live in nearby New York City.

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The Latte Segment, by Zoe Landon – book review by Fred Patten.

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer

The Latte Segment, by Zoe Landon
Portland, OR, Leporidae Media, February 2016, trade paperback $14.99 (282 pages), Kindle $4.99.

This is the purest funny-animal novel that I have ever read. Other than that the characters are all described as animals, there is nothing to differentiate this from any all-human novel.

Sarah Madsen is a young woman working as a marketing analyst in Portland, Oregon. Her boyfriend, Sean, is an unemployed computer programmer from Silicon Valley in California. Sarah relaxes alone almost every Sunday at the Deadline Cafe over an expensive latte laced with mint; her only vice.

“Sarah fidgeted and the corner creaked. She was worrying about money.

Her finances were safe, by most reasonable standards, yet there was a nagging sense that she should be doing better. Perhaps she could save a little more. She could go to fewer movies with Sean and their whole circle of friends. She couldn’t get rid of her television like Sean did; she relied on it too much for work. But she could stop coming to the Deadline Cafe every Sunday. It did feel like the lattes got more expensive the last year or so.

Everything in Portland felt like it was getting more expensive lately. Most of it was inevitable. She moved here when things weren’t very good anywhere, and now things were especially good here. New businesses were popping up in her neighborhood left and right. Businesses that, for one reason or another, she rarely went to.” (pgs. 5-6)

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D’Arc: A Novel from the War With No Name, by Robert Repino – review by Fred Patten

by Patch O'Furr

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

D’Arc: A Novel from the War With No Name, by Robert Repino. Illustrated by Sam Chung and Kapo Ng.
NYC, Soho Press, May 2017, hardcover $26.95 (386 pages), Kindle $14.99.

I don’t usually quote other writers’ blurbs, but how could anyone resist this from Corey Redekop, the author of Husk, on the front cover:

“Think The Fantastic Mr. Fox, with advanced weaponry, Charlotte’s Web, with armed combat, The Wind in the Willows, with machetes. D’Arc is all this and way more besides.”

S-f author Paul DiFilippo compares D’Arc to Cordwainer Smith’s Underpeople, David Brin’s Uplifted dolphins, Puss in Boots, and Brian Jacques’ Redwall. If I looked hard enough, I could doubtlessly find many comparisons to Animal Farm and Watership Down as well.

D’Arc is a sequel to Mort(e). Almost the first thing that you learn in D’Arc is a big spoiler for Mort(e): yes, Mort(e) the cat, the renamed Sebastian, does find Sheba, the pet dog who he was searching for all through that novel.

The first chapter, though, introduces Taalik and his Sarcops. They will appear again later. They are not Changed animals, but a new mutation. To quote a later description of them: “Part fish, part crab, part cephalopod. A bulbous head. Black eyes. Segmented armor on the spine, with four tentacles unfurling from within. Two jointed claws extending from the shoulders, with longer ones at the pelvis that could be used for walking. A long tail with spikes on the end of it.” (p. 54)

Mort(e) and Sheba appear in Chapter 2. Mort(e) does not join either the Changed animals or the remaining humans. He strikes out on his own – with Sheba. The “strange technology” of the ant Queen that Changed all natural animals into anthropomorphic animals in Mort(e) was actually a pill that the unnoticed ants inserted into each animal; and the Queen had not given this pill to Sheba in order to control Mort(e). After the Queen’s death and the disintegration of the Colony, Mort(e) and Sheba sail up the Delaware River, where Mort(e) gives Sheba the pill that Changes her. They continue past the abandoned ruins of Philadelphia, and finally leave the river and trek into the Pocono Mountains.

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Tucker Grizzwell’s Worst Week Ever, by Bill Schorr and Ralph Smith – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

Tucker Grizzwell’s Worst Week Ever, by Bill Schorr and Ralph Smith
Kansas City, MO, Andrews McMeel Publishing, January 2017, trade paperback $9.99 (242 pages), Kindle $8.49.

Laser Moose and Rabbit Boy, by Doug Savage
Kansas City, MO, Andrews McMeel Publishing, September 2016, hardcover $31.99, trade paperback $9.97 (144 pages), Kindle $9.47.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn, by Dana Simpson. Introduction by Peter S. Beagle.
Kansas City, MO, Andrews McMeel Publishing, September 2014, hardcover $13.99, trade paperback $9.99 (222 [+2] pages, Kindle $7.71.

These three books are samples of Andrews McMeel Publishing’s “AMP! comics for kids” series for children 8 to 12 years old (grades 3 to 7). The AMP! books are a combination of original book-length cartoon-art works and collections of newspaper or Internet daily comic strips. Most of them are not animal oriented, but here are two that are, plus Dana Simpson’s Phoebe and Her Unicorn, mostly for her previously-acclaimed hit in furry fandom, Ozy and Millie (although Phoebe does contain Marigold the Unicorn, and sometimes goblins). Furry fans may want to take a look at some of these. Many are in public libraries.

Tucker Grizzwell’s Worst Week Ever, by Bill Schorr and Ralph Smith, is a standalone original 242-page spinoff from Schorr’s The Grizzwells newspaper comic strip (1987 to present), featuring a funny-animal family of grizzly bears and their community. The newspaper strip is gag-a-day without any continuity. Schorr and his assistant Smith have tried to create a coherent novel, but what they have here is really a collection of lame one-liners with a thin connecting plot line. Astronomy class: “Do you know anything about asteroid belts?” “Only that they’re what asteroids wear when they can’t find their suspenders.” The characters compound the groaners by often breaking the fourth wall and looking knowingly at the reader. You can almost hear a drum-roll’s bada-boom.

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reWritten, by Jako Malan – Book Review by Fred Patten

by Pup Matthias

Submitted by Fred Patten, Furry’s favorite historian and reviewer.

reWritten, by Jako Malan
Plainfield, CT, Goal Publications, April 2017, trade paperback $15.00 (200 [+2] pages).

The setting of reWritten is a world from which humans have disappeared and been replaced with anthropomorphized Mammalœ.

It’s best not to dwell on the confusing background. The Mammalœ are aware of man’s past existence:

We are, indeed, not the first to call this world our home. Bright-eyed and naive, our earliest ancestors wandered forth as the sun set on the age of man and rose for Mammalœ. The ruins of their magnificent civilization would be both the foundation and inspiration for our own.” (p. 1)

What happened to man? It doesn’t sound like man became extinct through war, unless it was a war that didn’t include blast damage – the Mammalœ consider man’s ruins to be “magnificent”. Have the Mammalœ (the narrator is an anthro jackal; others are aardvarks, meerkats, springboks, rats, rabbits, mongooses, servals, cheetahs, etc.) evolved to replace man? That would take millions of years. Surely there wouldn’t be anything of man’s left to seem “magnificent”. The Mammalœ civilization seems like a rundown funny-animal imitation of man’s; a smoky city that includes coal power, rickety electric trams, hand-cranked automobiles for the rich; most Mammalœ riding bicycles… The Mammalœ such as the rat and zebra are all the same size, presumably human. It’s easier to just accept that man was here but is gone now, and anthro mammals (Malan is South African; so is the setting – the Mammalœ currency is even rands, not dollars) have replaced him in early-20th-century-style cities.

Professor M. (for Makwassie) van Elsburg (a jackal), head of the Department of Anthropology and History at Mammalaœ University in Bridgend (apparently a major Mammalœ city), is approached at a reception by rich Mr. Oberholzer (a hyrax), the patriarch of the Bridgend Energy Cartel. Prof. van Elsburg recognizes him as one of the most influential and notorious mobsters in Bridgend. (He flaunts it; what’s the point of being influential and notorious if everyone doesn’t know it?) Oberholzer is also interested in the history and disappearance of man, and he has a private museum in his mansion. Five months earlier he and an associate had organized an expedition to the ruins of a human city that they hoped would provide more information. The expedition disappeared; simultaneously Oberholzer’s private collection was burglarized, and his servants began being followed. Oberholzer wants Prof. van Elsburg to lead a second expedition to the ruins, to find the hoped-for information and any clues to the vanished first expedition. Elsburg objects that he’s late-middle-aged and sedentary, without any experience in exploring, but Oberholzer’s request is similar to Don Vito Corleone’s offer that can’t be refused.

“‘Take the train to the Ashton precinct.’ Mr. Oberholzer’s last instructions interrupted my train of thought. ‘That is as far as the railways will take you. In town, I will arrange for my associate to meet you. He will brief you from there onwards. I have already contacted him with the particulars of the assignment. Be vigilant, Professor. Don’t discuss your task with anyone. And don’t disappoint me.’” (pgs. 31-32)

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